Reply to Dr. Bismonte’s letter

Community Opinion & Analysis Jul 1, 2005 at 3:56 pm

Dear Dr Bismonte,

I have read your letter and appreciate your comments. It may be important for you to note that the article was meant to inform the public about your lecture with no intention to dishonor your profession as a Psychiatrist. As a Filipino, it is an honor to learn that there is a prominent Filipino Psychiatrist in Canada. In fact, upon receiving the invitation, I did not have second thoughts in traveling all the way from Niagara to listen to your lecture.

Your comments have been carefully noted and my replies are as follow:

1) In my several years of experience as a journalist or news reporter I have always tried my very best to be as accurate and objective with my story. I have always used a tape recorder, a video cam and notes as a guide. In your lecture, I only relied on my notes, highlighting certain key words that you had said; which means the words that I quoted you. As a news reporter, I only report what I hear, see or observe. With a limited space and deadline, I also need to be brief with my report. Likewise, I also need to address it with layman’s language. Writing with layman’s term is challenging to every reporter. It is precisely the reason why I made a follow up telephone interview to clarify certain points.

2) I referred to that event as a seminar because it had the characteristic of a forum (a synonym for seminar) wherein after your talk an interactive discussion took place. A lecture, in dictionary terms means “a speech giving information about a subject” and as far as I understand is usually confined to a classroom setting.

3) The headline: During your lecture, you mentioned that “Depression will be the Number 1 disease in the 21st century”. I did not hear any mention of WHO. As an authority in this field, I believe that you are entitled to your own opinion the same way as one BBC story quoted Professor Arthur Kleinman of Harvard Medical School (Nov. 1999) when he said that the “World Health Organization estimated that depression would be the second leading cause of death in the world by 2020.” Since the story is intended for the Filipino readership and you are a Fil-Can Psychiatrist, your claim was news worthy and therefore significant to quote. In our telephone conversation, you never corrected me. I told you that I am interested to write the story because of your claim. Your answer was only “Oh yes” followed by a host of explanations subsequent. You never corrected me, nor was there any mention of WHO.

4) On Bipolar Affective Disorder: If you may recall, I even let you spell the word “Affective”. I only asked you to explain Bipolar Disorder. You corrected me in saying it is Bipolar Affective Disorder. I am steadfast in my recollection that you cited the criminals and other individuals with “fraudulent behaviors” suffering from Bipolar Disorders. I was the one who asked you about anti-social behavior. You explained that just because a person is anti-social or does not want to socialize, it does not mean they are mentally sick. Please note, my second call was to clarify about Bipolar Disorder and to explain it using layman’s terms. Therefore, if there have been inconsistencies in the content of the explanation of this topic, I cannot argue with you since I am not a psychiatrist. I therefore stand corrected.
However, with my limited time I was also able to gather several information that led me to believe your claim:

That is, “bipolar disorders are viewed as a spectrum of symptoms that range from mild hypomania to the most extreme forms of mania, which may include life-threatening behaviors, dysphoria, and psychotic features.”

Another article also quoted a medical practitioner saying “Genetic and familial factors have profound influence in the propagation of bipolar disorder.” In layman’s terms, it means, inherited.

An article by Kimberly Bailey cited two scientists who claim that the causes of bipolar disorder “are usually divided into biological and psychological explanations’ meaning, there are physical and mental / environmental / emotional causes for mental illnesses”.

Further, it states, “In considering the biological explanations, the first issue is inheritability. This question has been researched via multiple family, adoption and twin studies. In families of persons with bipolar disorder, first-degree relatives (parents, children, siblings) are more likely to have a mood disorder than the relatives of those who do not have bipolar disorder.”

Again, I quoted you because I believe that as an authority in this field, you may also agree with other medical practitioners. In your comment Number two, all I can say is: who am I to argue with you?” Once again, all I have to do is to quote you.

5) I have introduced myself as a journalist during your lecture and during the follow up telephone call. I was under the impression that you were aware of being interviewed It is also best to inform you that, we, news reporters, abide by the ethics when our source of information says “off the record” – it means off the record. But such instruction was never mentioned.

Once again, thank you for your time and it was a pleasure meeting you.
Sincerely yours,